Brett Ratner’s Crassness And The Meaning Of The Academy Awards

Brett Ratner, charming as always, apparently said, and then quickly apologized for saying, that rehearsing to play a part, something that one would assume is part of performing your job diligently and well if you’re an actor, “is for fags.” There’s something hilarious, given the quality and subtlety of stories Ratner usually tells (though I stand by Tower Heist) in his apology, in which he says “It was a dumb and outdated way of expressing myself…as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”

This would all be another crude entry in Ratner’s crude legacy, except for the fact that the man is producing the Academy Awards this year. As Mike Fleming wrote in Deadline, “Director and Oscarcast producer Brett Ratner needs to conduct himself with more class in public appearances or risk screwing up his dream…He has fielded questions with a lack of understanding that as Oscarcast producer, he is something of an ambassador for the Academy and a prestigious Oscar tradition.” To a certain extent, this is absolutely true. Comments like this are tacky, jarring on a night when the movie industry likes to present its best self, not just because they’re homophobic, but because they’re stupid. I think there’s an open debate about whether it’s OK to make people uncomfortable at awards shows by calling them on their biases, their wealth, or their politics, and whether the host has an obligation to the audience in the room or at home. But no matter where one comes down on that question, I think we can all agree that tackiness and unfunniness are a no.

On the other hand, the Academy Awards are a night when the movie industry professes in public to care very much about things that it as a whole doesn’t invest very much in on a day to day basis. Whether it’s stories about people of color, sexual minorities, and strong women; the folks who make technical and non-acting artistic contributions to what we see on-screen; movies that don’t make an enormous amount of money, the Academy Awards sometimes feel like an apology to techniques, priorities, and people who are ignored for most of the year in Hollywood. Inviting someone like Brett Ratner to produce the Oscar telecast may be treated as if it’s an opportunity for a mediocre but profitable popular director to class himself up for the occasion. But if you’re getting affirmation for being crude most of the time, it probably takes more than a single job for you to rewrite your brain to not say stupid, homophobic nonsense.